Reuters International

African Union Commission chairman Jean Ping arrives for the 18th African Union (AU) Summit in the Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 29, 2012. REUTERS/Noor Khamis/File Photo

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By Edward McAllister

LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Government officials in Gabon warned opposition leader Jean Ping on Wednesday that he risked arrest if renewed unrest erupts when the Constitutional Court rules on his challenge to last month's presidential election result.

The government said six people died in riots that erupted this month when results from the Aug. 27 poll handed victory to incumbent President Ali Bongo by less than 6,000 votes, extending his family's half-century grip on power.

Ping said as many as 100 people were killed in the violence and filed a request for a recount, alleging fraud in one of Bongo's strongholds.

"Mr. Ping said clearly that if the constitutional court did not declare him winner that there will be disorder. If he crosses the line, he will be arrested," government spokesman Alain-Claude Bilie By Nze told a news conference.

The Constitutional Court has until Friday to decide on his complaint, but the authorities are already stepping up security in the capital Libreville, the epicentre of the violence.

Soldiers and police were visible on the city's streets on Wednesday, taking up positions at major crossroads.

"Today we hear of more calls for disorder by certain compatriots. We know who they are. We know where they are. We are not going to let them agitate," Interior Minister Pacome Moubelet Boubeya said at the same news conference.

Ping's petition alleges irregularities in Haut-Ogooue province where Bongo won 95 percent on turnout of 99.9 percent.

A European Union observer mission also noted anomalies in the province's results. Former colonial ruler France recommended a recount and the African Union pledged to send observers to monitor the work of the Constitutional Court.

Bongo's allies submitted evidence to the court rejecting Ping's allegations and countering that the opposition leader - a former chairman of the African Union commission - had himself organised fraud.

Ping is a lifelong insider to Gabonese politics. He was a close ally of Omar Bongo and has two children with the late president's daughter, Pascaline.

During more than four decades in power, Omar Bongo cultivated close relations with a succession of French presidents. However, Ali Bongo's ties to Paris have been more tenuous.

Two Franco-Gabonese dual citizens arrested during this month's violence filed complaints in a court in Paris on Wednesday, alleging arbitrary detention, torture, attempted murder and crimes against humanity by persons unknown.

(Additional reporting by Gerauds Wilfried Obangome and Emma Farge in Dakar; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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